ACrafty Interview with Arlee Barr – Part 2

Welcome to Part 2 of this fascinating ACrafty Interview with Arlee Barr, textile and quilt artist. Arlee’s responses are so engaging that the interview was split into two parts! Here’s a link to Part 1, if you missed it or would like to refresh your memory.

acrafty interview - arlee barr ecoprint triptychs

I took a look at some of your first Flickr uploads from 2005. How would you say that your work has changed over the last eight years? AB: There was a long period where i lost myself, literally and figuratively, in the explosion of “mixed media” where every colour was used, every texture, every technique, every found and bought object with every commercial product imagined. The only thing that held it all together for me, however weakly, was the fabric that was the base i worked from, and the fact that suddenly i was making something that was not wearable, that didn’t have to fit anyone, but that was possibly art. When i discovered natural dyeing and other organic cloth marking methods, my whole approach changed. Initially even with these elemental fabrics, i used a fair bit of machine work, then slowly moved into just hand embroidery, finding that the look while more delicate appearing, was quite strong and unifying. As i continue to “find the image” in the unique marks inherent in the process of staining or dyeing, they are becoming works with an amalgam now of machine and hand. I use a lot of free motion embroidery as it can be very gestural, using those areas as either accent or a base to build on with hand embroidery. When i was first doing hand embroidery in my 20’s, i knew only of satin stitch and french knots, but now i prefer cleaner lines and the effects from simple stitches with a few fancies thrown in along the way for texture. I let the fabric move as it will (i loathe embroidery hoops) and with those basic stitches used experimentally, can control the depth of manipulation and the resulting texture.

I’ve pared down my colour use, and refuse to use “technique driven” response as art. It’s not important to show the kitchen sink in everything you create. As i get older, and ironically, my eyesight poorer, i focus literally and figuratively more on the details.

acrafty interview - arlee barr the difference between a plum

 

acrafty interview - arlee barr wild rose series

Has an art project ever challenged you in an unexpected way? AB: I’m currently working on a large project (“Anno Suturae”, 48×72”) that i initially thought would take a year. As it turns out, it’s evolving into 2 years at least, and will have to be pluralized! All hand worked, it’s incorporating things i’ve learned or are still testing with hand stitch. Because hand work takes a lot of time, trying to divide my attention for work that will be seen and work that is intensely personal, has been hard.

How has art affected your character? AB: I’ve evolved into more of an intuitive maker than a deliberate product artist. I’ve learned patience, perseverance and a more critical eye to what i am expressing and how i utilize needle and thread to externalize that. Patience first and foremost is what you have to have as an artist: patience for the process, the technique and most of all your own satisfaction and soul. Patience is trust, learning to find your own voice and knowing your instincts are right.

Can you share a story about how your art has affected others? AB: When i created “Mother’s Heart”, i received a lot of messages about how heart issues of all sorts had affected people’s lives. From poignant memories of of loved ones and their subsequent death, to a painful revelation from a former nurse, to feelings of revulsion and anger, i had no idea of how it would be perceived by others: i had intended only to show Mother Nature as i saw her, with the use of naturally dyed and ecoprinted fabrics and hand stitch. She’s a force, and one that directs all doings and it was an homage to her, rather than a representation of the body or health issues. A fascinating lesson in interpretation!acrafty interview - arlee barr mother's heart

What do you have coming up in the future? Why is it appealing to you? AB: The future is now! I’m striving to create a body of work as it gives continuity and purpose to my life, and am hoping to finalize a solo show in the next year. A few years ago i was ready to throw in the towel and never make anything ever again–my dear Greyman was explicit in his words “if you quit being an artist, you will go crazy–and so will i!” It made me realize that having been creative all my life, that there was no stopping at any point for any reason. I can’t imagine not making or planning *something*. Even with the immensely destructive June 2013 flooding in Calgary Alberta that affected me personally in my home based studio and emotionally speaking, causing a bit of a “drought” in my creative process, i have found new hope, new work emerging and a stronger appreciation for Mother Nature and the inspiration i find in her.

Much of my imagery and subtexts relate to what is internal to me; i can only hope that someone else can feel what i am saying. Having dealt with mental health issues all my life, i can only say that it is healing, calming and necessary to express myself as i do in this medium. Cloth is soothing to everyone, from birth to death and all the days in between. I do believe that today’s world with all it’s supposed cosmopolitan and sophisticated attitude yearns for a more personal, grounded approach to art, one without heavy concept, overly political statement or existing for sheer prettiness’s sake.

You just don’t quit on yourself!

acrafty interview - arlee barr work in progress

 

Once again, many thanks to Arlee for her participation in this ACrafty Interview series! As she commented on Part 1 of the interview, Arlee was glad for “the opportunity to ‘explain’ [herself].” I think we are all the beneficiaries of her generous insights into her work.

Also once again, thanks to fellow ACrafty Interview subject Betty Busby (original interview and followup) for suggesting that I approach Arlee for the series.

You can follow Arlee’s adventures on her blog, her FacebookFlickr, and her shop

Please note that Arlee does not want any of the images that she provided above copied, Pinned, or used in any way without her permission. An excerpt from her Flickr profile: “Please do not add my photos to your Pinterest without asking me–this violates the copyright clause that say *I* have exclusive right to decide where my work is distributed–my photos are ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.”

Would you like to be a part of the ACrafty interview series? Just contact me! You might also be interested in reading some more ACrafty Interviews with multi-crafter Diane from CraftyPodneedlepointer Haruhi Okubo of Cresus-Parpitatter and chainmailler Jeff Hamiltonpotter Nancy Germondbasketweaver Tina Puckettquilter and pursemaker Linda Martin, and cross stitcher Meredith Cait.

ACrafty Interview with Arlee Barr – Part 1

Welcome to today’s ACrafty Interview with Arlee Barr, textile artist. Arlee’s responses are so thorough and engaging that the interview has been split into two parts!

Here’s Part 1 to start your fascinating look at her art and process: acrafty interview - arlee barr embroidery for vest from original pen and ink drawing

When did you start making art? AB: I’ve always considered myself an artist, whether it was my first realistic renderings of an airplane (the family having lived several years above a hanger when i was quite young!), drawings of plants and animals, writing poetry and critiques for a Canadian literary magazine when i was 16, moving onto pen and ink renderings of fantasy elements in my late teens and then in my 20’s, with a child added to the mix, translating my drawings into embroidery and making clothing for myself and my son that were way past the considered norm of the time. ( I could find that boy in *any* crowd 🙂 )

I come from a long matriarchal line of women who Did simply because they had to, and knowing that it was the way of their lives. I credit my mother first and foremost. She taught me to break the rules, to think as an individual and to re-invent the wheel, teaching me to sew by hand when i was five: i created a series of Barbie type dolls with all of their clothes sewn on, seams visible and impossible to take off unless i cut them! When i was seven, i had lessons on a sewing machine and by the time i was nine, was making all of my own clothes. When i was 13, my grade 8 home ec teacher was bothered by the fact that while everyone else was busy figuring out the intricacies of an apron or pyjama pants, i was already making more complicated gusseted and gored mid Eastern styled dresses.

My mother was widely read, immersed herself in museum and gallery visits, bringing home a new sensibility about world apparel and style, almost a hippie in her wanderings through those respectable findings. Because of her, i see things differently, and she encouraged me to experiment and explore what could be done with a needle and thread. It wasn’t until my teens though, that i realized that what i was doing could be art rather than craft. I was also lucky enough to be hanging around with a bunch of students who were taken under the wing of an incredibly talented art teacher would take us to Hamilton and Toronto to the galleries and art colleges, on his own dime.

acrafty interview - arlee barr street pretty

What mediums have you tried and what is your current favorite? AB: I painted, i wrote poetry (still do), i created mixed media collages and shrines, i dabbled in everything i could but nothing really held my interest unless i went back to a needle and thread, whether on a machine or by hand. In my 30’s i started selling my wearable art and with the encouragement of friends and a helpful counsellor, entered a 2 year Textile Arts programs at North Vancouver’s Capilano College (BC), 1993-95. (Now known as Capilano University and with the program cut and gone, sadly…) I joked for years after that all i learned was how to better my machine applique from that 2 year period, not knowing how much of the art history and design ethic actually sank in. I’m grateful that it did, finally seeping up from the depths to colour what i am and how i do things almost 20 years later.

acrafty interview - arlee barr tawdry rose 3

acrafty interview - arlee barr hand of the fatherWhat project are you most proud of? AB: All of my work is full of pride and satisfaction. It’s as simple as if it didn’t work and i don’t like it, it never gets shown, or even finished! If i had to choose a favourite piece, it would be like saying i loved one child more than another, but i have a special fondness and memories for “Beautiful Bones” (2009), “Hand of the Father” (2010), “Raggedy Black Heart” (2011) and and my most recent completed piece, “Mother’s Heart”. All of them relate to certain emotional issues i have dealt with: the ubiquitous feelings of mortality and the sense that we are all beautiful and the same under the skin, my father’s death, a friend’s very confused and sad life ending and a response to Mother Nature (and indirectly to my own mother).

acrafty interview - arlee barr beautiful bones

What is the silliest question you’ve received regarding your work? AB: I was working on a complex, cloth woven and hand and machine embroidered piece while waiting in a doctor’s office, and a woman asked me if there was a pattern for it. When i said no, she sniffed and walked away—i think there are people who believe patterns, kits and someone else telling you this MUST be the way to do it and that it’s the ONLY way, is a very sad approach to “creativity” and being either artist or craftsperson. I also get tired of someone scanning over a piece i’ve spent months on by hand, and then asking me if i could make placemats for them. Nope.

acrafty interview - arlee barr haystack

What is your most popular (or bestselling) project? AB: I’m very grateful to have discovered the wonders and mysteries of natural dyeing and ecoprinting. I rarely use any commercial fabrics now, unless they are bits of scrounged or thrift shopped articles. This means that anything i create now is really built from as close to scratch as one can get without actually weaving the cloth first! I “share the wealth” by selling one of a kind fabrics for other artists who incorporate it into their own work.acrafty interview - arlee barr original fabrics

Do you sketch most of your work before you begin, or do you work without a pattern or plan? AB: Yes and no! My sketchbooks are full of very rudimentary scribbles and notes. Words are more important to me as inspiration: bits of poetry, a strange turn of phrase, an overheard bit of conversation. I then audition my fabrics and the one that speaks most emotionally to me is the one i start with. I’d rather have the actual art made than make art of the notes themselves. I’ve seen wonderful sketchbooks from other artists, but for me personally they are a waste of time, a waste of resources, and leave me no energy or inclination for the actual art! I’d rather be making it than planning it. I do lightly audition certain bits in a loose way on some paper, but that’s not always the case or a comfortable way for me to develop what i want to say. The only “serious” sketchbook work i do, is to sometimes do a print out of the base fabric with a few ideas and then overdraw on it where i might use certain stitches or motifs. I keep all of these print outs in a workbook divided into either dates worked on or thematically. I can then look back for ideas for future work, or see how things are evolving, and building a library of personal iconography.

The most important tool i have in the documentation process is my notebook of thread ends with the company, colourway and number recorded: since i do a lot of projects at once, i need to be able to refer back to which threads i have used in each one.acrafty interview - arlee barr imperfect world

 

– End of Part 1

Many thanks to Arlee for her participation in this ACrafty Interview series! Part 2 of her interview will be posted next Thursday, October 17, so stay tuned for the rest of this glimpse into her work. Also thanks to fellow ACrafty Interview subject Betty Busby (original interview and followup) for suggesting that I approach Arlee for the series.

In the meantime, you can follow Arlee’s adventures on her blog, her FacebookFlickr, and her shop

Update: Link to Part 2

Please note that Arlee does not want any of the images that she provided above copied, Pinned, or used in any way without her permission. An excerpt from her Flickr profile: “Please do not add my photos to your Pinterest without asking me–this violates the copyright clause that say *I* have exclusive right to decide where my work is distributed–my photos are ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.”

Would you like to be a part of the ACrafty interview series? Just contact me! You might also be interested in reading some more ACrafty Interviews with multi-crafter Diane from CraftyPodneedlepointer Haruhi Okubo of Cresus-Parpitatter and chainmailler Jeff Hamiltonpotter Nancy Germond, basketweaver Tina Puckettquilter and pursemaker Linda Martin, and cross stitcher Meredith Cait.

Five Posts I’m Proud of Creating – 2013

Once again following the lead of Diane and Tammy, I’m rounding up the “Five Posts I’m Proud of Creating in 2013” as part of their “Share the Link Love” mission.

I started blogging in February of this year, and what an adventure it has been! I honestly had no idea of exactly what I was getting into, and to be honest, I still don’t as blogging seems to be constantly evolving (just read Diane’s post on the topic). Creating posts takes more time than I originally thought, but I’m happy to be writing again after a gap of many years. I’m also trying to emphasize quality of posts over quantity of posts, and that seems to keep me motivated and to be working. With all that in mind, here’s five posts I’m proud of (in no particular order):

#1 FIRST POST!

Hitting “publish” the first time was a pretty interesting experience. It was nerve-wracking and thrilling while I was being hopeful and curious all at the same time. It was also the result of a failure (but a fail-forward type failure).
Computer keyboard and touch pad

(Insert sound effect here: “Yeeeeeaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaggggghhhhh!”)

[Photo by darrenleno via Flickr]

The first AncoraCrafts.com was an e-commerce platform that I had spent a lot of time and money on setting up, customizing, and maintaining. And after an extended period of time, I never sold a damn thing on it. Not one. Hardly got any views. Obviously, I had to make a change.

Moving my listings to Etsy was the easy part, but changing the .com to a blog took a lot of work, mentally and digitally. Switching to a new web host and learning WordPress were two big hurdles. But the biggest challenge was in making the commitment to blogging – a decision I did not take lightly.

I’m very happy to say that ever since I hit “publish” on the first post in late February, although it’s a lot of work, I’m having a lot of fun with this blog!

#2 Followup on my ACrafty Interview with Betty Busby

acrafty interview - betty busby with her quilt disco urchinI published an interview with quilt artist Betty Busby in June. I have been in awe of her work since I first saw it and I was so curious about her process. In August she was gracious enough to give me, my husband, and our dog Scully a tour of her home and studio space in Albuquerque. It was a real honor and treat for all of us, and I’m really happy that I was brave and took the chance to ask her if she was available.

#3 Making a Better Blog

The Better IdeaMost of my very early posts on the blog are about my own projects and products, and that was fine. But in May, after doing a lot of reading about blogging, I had a kind of epiphany about the direction of my blog. I’m sure it will shift again someday, but this post sums up my current bloggy path.

[Photo: The Better Idea by (the brilliant) Peggy Dembicer via Flickr]

 

 

#4 Favorite Books – Crafty and Otherwise

As part of Rosalilium’s Blog Every Day in May project, I put more information about myself out on the internet than I ever thought I would. Of all the 31 topics that month, I really enjoyed creating this post about my favorite books.Bill the Cat for President

 [Bill the Cat for President from Bloom County. Photo by tjosephson2 via Flickr]

#5 My Hexie Madness Series

I had done a few other crafty roundups before, but the hexagon series really stands out. I dug deep, spending days on the internet to find examples of hexagon crafts in all types of disciplines. I ended up finding some really outstanding hexies in interesting places. I tried to find as many tutorials and patterns as possible, but where those didn’t exist, I did find some excellent sources of inspiration. Love the leather pouffe and these popsicle sticks – so fun! [Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4]

How about you? Share your “proud five” post over at CraftyPod!

ACrafty Interview with Betty Busby – Followup!

I’d like to share the followup of my interview with Betty Busby…

Recently, I had the pleasure of meeting Betty Busby in person at her home and studio in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Betty was featured in my fifth ACrafty Interview in June 2013. As you can read in the interview, I am a fervent admirer of her work. Her use of color and the detail involved simply amaze me. acrafty interview - betty busby detail of quilt diatom 3

I won’t give away too much of what I’ve learned about her process, but she uses various combinations of Photoshop, digital printing, hand-painting, drawing, hand beadwork, and a hand made longarm quilting machine to achieve some of her effects. And those effects are stunning!acrafty interview - betty busby detail of her quilt reliquary

She also has a fabric stash that would make any quilter green with envy. I didn’t want to take a photo as Betty was a bit shy about her studio space – but I will say that my jaw dropped when I saw it.

acrafty interview - betty busby with her quilt disco urchinBetty is a true artist, and it was a great pleasure to meet her. Her quilts are in exhibits around the country and she does teach classes a few times a year. If you enjoy her pieces, I highly encourage you to follow her adventures and hopefully cross paths with her someday!

[Photo: I’m on the left, and Betty in front of her piece Disco Urchin]

 

You can follow Betty through her Etsy shop, her Flickr photostream, her website, her blog (which contains info on some of her techniques), and she JUST started selling fabric patterns through Spoonflower!

ACrafty Interview with Betty Busby

Welcome to today’s ACrafty Interview with Betty Busby! It is my honor to present her art as I am a fervent admirer of her intricate, colorful, and unique work.

When did you start crafting? BB: My two younger sisters and I had “arts and crabs” sessions from way, way back – we were all in elementary school.
acrafty interview with betty busby quilt color me happy
What crafts have you tried and what is your current favorite? BB: I love a whole ton of things – I actually have a degree in ceramics, and ran a ceramic tile manufacturing plant in Southern California for almost 20 years. I also enjoy knitting very much. Except when it’s too hot out (smile).acrafty interview with betty busby quilt la luz
What craft project are you most proud of? BB: It’s hard to say, currently I am very honored that one of my pieces was awarded Best in Show at the Form, Not Function exhibit at the Carnegie Center. It’s entirely handmade, and took a big chunk of last summer to make.
[This is the winning piece from 2013,titled Retia.]
acrafty interview with betty busby quilt retia
What is the silliest question you’ve ever received about your craft (aside from this one)? BB: Well, somebody will always ask you if it can be washed.
acrafty interview with betty busby quilt diatom 2
What is the one question you wish someone would ask about your craft? BB: Would you like to have a solo show in my 5,000 square foot museum!!
acrafty interview with betty busby quilt after rain
Has a craft or craft project ever challenged you in an unexpected way? BB: They are all challenges – every time I do something, it’s a bit of an experiment in a different way. I’m working on something right now that is about 180% different from the way I had planned it. Not finished yet, hope it will be worth all the trouble it’s been!
acrafty interview with betty busby quilt push
How has crafting affected your character? BB: I’m sure it’s made me more persistent. I have a “rule” for myself that each project must be finished before the next one gets worked on. So that forces me to get over the “humps”- that boring place when it seems like it’ll never get done – that most of us face.
acrafty interview with betty busby quilt night jungle
Can you share a story about how your crafting has affected others? BB: We had a 16 year old German exchange student one summer. She told me she liked to draw, and I showed her how to translate that into fiber art. She had never sewed before, but loved it so much that she stayed an additional couple of months and made three quilts while she was here. All while barely being able to speak English!
acrafty interview with betty busby quilt enigma
What crafty goodness do you have coming up in the future? Why is it appealing to you? BB: I’m about to leave for Florida for the opening reception of my solo show at the Dunedin Fine Art Center. It’s a very big honor, but also nerve wracking since all eyes will be on me!
acrafty interview with betty busby quilt ojo caliente

Betty, I just can’t thank you enough for your time. Best of luck with all of your future endeavours… 

You can follow Betty on her blog and at her Etsy shop. I also highly suggest you check her Flickr Photostream to see more of her amazing creations. And I have a sneaking suspicion that I will feature more on this blog with Betty in the future. 

Would you like to be a part of this ACrafty interview series? Just contact me! You might also be interested in reading some more ACrafty Interviews with knitter Sabrinacross stitcher WhateverJamesmulti-crafter Diane from CraftyPod, and knitter Apockylypse!